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Mann Ramblings

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About Mann Ramblings

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    A Real Mann has Tattoos

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    Ann Arbor, Michigan
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    Writing, Drawing, Painting, Making Pottery and designing more tattoos for myself. (It's very addicting.)

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  1. Teller performance reviews and branch efficiency reports would have to wait, or they would have to learn how to write themselves. Sawyer’s brain refused to stay linear enough for busy work lately. He had a week to complete the files, but he hated to slam up against a deadline, so he’d been doing a little bit each day because his attention span had been kind of sketchy since the scene in the lobby with the biker. It could hardly be considered a scene or an interaction, it was so short, but he didn’t have a great deal of experience with lewd suggestions. Other than Jada’s in the early parts of their dissolving marriage. The difficulty wasn’t the smutty proposal, it was his lack of offense. For years he’d been trying to be good—whatever that really meant—and tended to find double entendres discomforting. This time however… In fact, he’d mulled it over the biker’s comments in his head so many times he could barely sit still, even after work for the last several days. The edginess got bad enough he started running through the trails during the night. His vision in the dark was better than most people he’d known, but it wasn’t the safest way to burn off steam. The runs helped, but during them he couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched, which was preposterous. No one could have kept up with him through the forest. He would have noticed. When he ran, he noticed not a hint of wildlife made a sound, not even a cricket. Total, unusual silence. “I’m just getting paranoid.” Sawyer looked around the room to be sure no one heard him. Closed, the cubicle farm half of this James branch was lit with minimal lighting. Everyone else had left for the day, leaving him behind to catch up his paperwork. Only perfunctory goodbyes were given, which was nothing out of the ordinary. He may have gotten along with his colleagues, but he couldn’t count any of them as close friends. He wasn’t sure any of them new about his impending divorce. Sawyer rubbed the back of his neck as he logged out of his computer. Locking the last pile of papers in the drawer to be dealt with later, he noticed how barren his desk appeared. Compared to everyone else’s space, no cute coffe mugs or family picture frames adorned his cubicle. Nothing personal. He kept telling himself he liked his area uncluttered. If his nameplate wasn’t mounted on the cubicle window, his desk might have been mistaken for being unoccupied. Empty. Would anyone notice or care if he was gone? Without answering the question, he collected his briefcase and headed out before he said or thought something he’d regret. Locking the door, Sawyer headed for his grey Honda Accord. He didn’t look for the shiny black truck and its attractive biker-type driver this time. Best not to tease himself. Around the back of the building where employees were meant to park—which he often didn’t do—he found himself with a flat tire. “Wonderful.” Apparently the pothole he hit coming into work ended up being more of a problem than he thought. When he parked, everything seemed fine, but it looked like a slow leak developed. He prayed the rim wasn’t cracked. He hadn’t budgeted for additional car expenses this month. Unlocking the door, he slung his briefcase into the passenger seat with a little more force than necessary, and opened the trunk. He was too annoyed to wait for a service to change the tire. It had been quite a while since he’d done this, but he he still remembered how. He could take care of it. Yes, he could. He pulled out the jack and the spare, quickly got fed up with the wordless picture diagram instructions, and jumped into it regardless from memory. He put the jack in place, lifted the car, and realized he needed it on the ground before he could remove the tire. Crap. After settling the car again, the hubcap came off without incident, and he started on the first lug nut using the pseudo-tire iron that doubled as a controller for screwing the jack up and down. It never looked like this in the movies. He threw all his weight into the bar for leverage and the nut didn’t budge. This was going to take a while. “Can I help?” Wiping his brow, Sawyer gazed over his shoulder to find a familiar biker-type guy walking his way. His wild shoulder-length hair appeared tamer than usual and his beard groomed tight to his firm jaw. Jeans designed for looks rather than function clung to his massive legs, ending at a pair of black leather boots. A wide, matching belt circled his hips and Sawyer’s gaze rose upwards to the natural fiber henley clinging to the biker’s chest. The three buttons at the neck sat unfastened, giving a glimpse of dark hair feathering the skin. Both sleeves were pushed up to the elbow exposing a pair of heavy, corded forearms, and a leather vest finished the ensemble. Each smooth step was in contrast to his stature. Men his size were usually clumsy and heavy footed. This man was not, like a born hunter. It was amazing how much detail Sawyer could absorb in so few seconds. The biker was far more polished today than the day they ran into each other, and it made Sawyer’s mouth dry back then. He wondered if the man smelled as good as he did when they met, woodsy and gentle musk without cologne. Did this gorgeous man clean himself up for Sawyer’s benefit? Oh man, he called him gorgeous. Sawyer swallowed so he could speak. “I’m just having trouble popping my nuts—I mean, loosening the lug nuts.” The biker paused, his shoulders tensing, as an awkward silence rose between them. If only there was time to raise the car back up, crawl underneath the tire and kick out the jack to end Sawyer’s life and this meeting. “The shops usually put them on with a torque wrench. They can be hard to crack. If you can’t loosen them by hand, try this.” The biker edged closer, silently asking permission to continue. When Sawyer stepped to one side, he checked the tire iron still connected to the first lug nut, raised his big boot and stomped the bar. The nut released with a satisfying crack. “Hadn’t thought of that.” “You want me to do this? You’re not exactly dressed for changing a tire.” Without waiting for a response, the biker stooped down and switched the tire iron to the second lug nut. “I can do it. I’m not helpless.” The second nut cracked free from the biker’s bare hands on the bar. He barely strained. Either Sawyer found the one overtightened bolt, or his man card was disintegrating in his pocket as they spoke. The biker’s voice softened. “I know. I’m not doing it to make you feel small. Just offering because I figure I owe you an apology and that’s easier to do if I’m not looking you in the eye.” “An apology?” “Yeah. For what I said to you the other day. It came out without thinking. I didn’t mean to embarrass you.” Sawyer needed a moment to process what he was hearing. This man exuded power and confidence with every step, an absolute alpha male. Now, he knelt at Sawyer’s feet (sort of) trying to make things right between them when the simpler solution would be to walk away and never set eyes on each other again. The level of integrity took the edge off the anxious energy Sawyer’s brain found as normal operating procedure. “You seemed pretty shocked at the time too.” The biker popped the third nut. “I usually need a few drinks before I talk like that to people.” A nervous chuckle leaked out of Sawyer. The biker’s smooth voice hadn’t erased his worries yet. He may not have been facing Sawyer, but he had the sensation the man was tuned into anything Sawyer said or did. Hunter to prey. “I’ve noticed you hanging out around here. Every day since we ran into each other. Are you watching me? Be honest.” The biker’s face crunched as he dipped his head like a guilty man. An extreme giveaway of his character, because so far he’d maintained an excellent poker face. “Sort of. Getting up the nerve to talk to you.” “It’s been almost a week.” “I’m not used to apologizing.” Shaking his head, nut number four came loose using only one hand. The display of strength, while exciting, still managed to keep his nerves dancing. “Tell me you didn’t cause my flat to give you an excuse, did you?” The tire iron rattled to the asphalt as the biker turned to Sawyer, panic written all over his face. “No! I swear. I’ve done a lot of shitty things in my life, but that’s not one of them.” “Sorry. Your appearance has made me a little paranoid lately.” Sawyer’s comment made the biker’s shoulders sink a fraction. At least the man was making an effort to do right. Picking up the tire iron, he turned back, finding the last nut at a wounded pace. He wanted to feel bad for saying it, but it was fair. A stranger’s continued presence—no matter how attractive—was cause for concern. The caution still lived bright, but Sawyer’s curiosity had grown alongside it. “What kind of shitty things have you done?” “Excuse me?” The biker’s sounded almost as shocked at the question as Sawyer felt for asking it. “You brought it up. What kind of things have you done you’re not proud of?” “I’m not answering that.” The last nut cracked free. An unexpected desire for fairness flared in Sawyer’s chest. “Hold on now. I’m betting over the last week you’ve learned more about me than you’d admit. I think it’s only right I get more out of this than a changed tire. I am the wounded party here.” The biker laughed, and the timbre was glorious. “Wounded party?” “You’ve been watching—some might call it stalking—for the past week after you made a smutty proposition to me at work in front of customers and a few of my coworkers. I’ve had to listen to them talk about the hot biker all week.” “You think I’m hot?” The corner of the biker’s mouth curled into a knowing grin. The sight of it melted Sawyer’s burst of bravado. “I… I didn’t say that.” The biker paused as he wet his lips, his whole body tensing. “If you did, your wife might have a problem with that.” Oh man, talk about fishing for answers and not being terribly subtle about it either. There was no doubt he knew of Jada, but not who she actually was. He tried not to think too deeply how. Sawyer’s mind raced, because his rational thoughts said to lie, and when the tire was done, get the hell out of town. However, the less rational side of himself felt compelled to answer, and not lie about who he was anymore. He couldn’t say why that was so important to him. but he didn’t want the truth to scare the man off either. When he opened his mouth, the words nearly came out a garbled mess. “Well… I’m not really… we’re finishing up a divorce.” “Oh… sorry.” The hard lines of the biker’s body relaxed and he went back to removing the nuts and dropping them into the turned over hubcap. “It’s all right. We both decided my shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place. It’ll be nice to stay friends.” It didn’t take long to jack the car back up and yank the dead wheel off the axel. The biker did it so effortlessly. His forearms flexed with each move, and Sawyer made a point not to be caught staring. He was close enough to catch the faint woodsy musk, and it still smelled amazing. Arousing. Wow… yes, arousing. In suit pants. Before he humiliated himself, Sawyer decided to change the topic. “So tell me, what do you do?” “For what?” “Work. More of me trying to even out how much you know about me.” The biker’s hands stuttered for a moment, as if he wasn’t expecting the question. “Private security.” Purposefully vague. Sawyer understood, but didn’t like it. He suspected his own major life details had likely already been uncovered. “In other words, stuff that’s too confidential to talk about.” “Sometimes yes.” Placing the undersized spare on the axle mount, his sigh was filled with regret. Lowering the car was another easy affair. Sawyer shuddered at the biker’s sheer power as he cranked each nut down by hand and tire iron. He suspected they were screwed on as tight as the shop could do with their power tools. Reminder: he’d have to call tomorrow and make an appointment to fix the existing tire. The tiny factory spare looked ridiculous. Once satisfied with the spare’s fit, the biker gathered everything left over and stowed it in the open trunk. He dusted his hands off on each other, but they didn’t appear to have gotten noticeably dirty. Sawyer would have never been so lucky. “All done. So…what do you do for fun around here?” Sawyer had to think for a moment. “Not a lot. I go to the gym. I read.” The biker waited, maybe expecting more? “That’s it?” Explanations were always the worst. Sawyer has stopped sharing long ago, when he couldn’t bear the judgment in people’s eyes. It was never mean spirited, but demeanors would change, marking him as damaged goods. He carried enough shame for his college years, and getting negative reactions only reinforced it. Isolation provided an easier solution. Getting close to others required levels of honesty he hadn’t been prepared for. He needed to be better now or coming out to his mother would have to be filed under complete waste of time. Online articles talked about how it would be an act a healthy person performed over and over for the rest of your life. Apparently the columns were right. They weren’t talking about addiction, but he could see the parallels. He needed to make peace with his mistakes, or he’d never move on. “Too much fun got me in a lot of trouble in the past.” The biker’s smile was kind. “Maybe you just need someone to tag along and make sure you don’t run too wild.” What a wonderful idea. Do what you want, enjoy things again, all with a safety net, someone to reel you in if you stray too far. Jada had been his good friend in college, but he didn’t confide in her, didn’t reach out when his life was crumbling around him. Trust in another person might have been a lifesaver. Too late to know now. Those years were behind him, but they took their toll. Growing up, he’d only learned to count on his mother, which left him poorly prepared to be out from under her influence. She wasn’t lording over him anymore. He broken the leash, more or less, and had to find his own way. Maybe he could still learn to move on with only a minor amount of risk. Although there was nothing minor about the hulking man standing patiently before him. With the tire changed, they’d stood far too long, waiting for someone to break the uncomfortable silence, and it looked like he expected it to be Sawyer. “You know, I’m still waiting.” The biker’s brow creased in confusion. “For what?” “You’ve been out here all this time, and I still haven’t gotten the apology you came out here for.” Sawyer must have been insane. In the middle of his worries and concerns over this man, he kept finding sparks of playful humor. He found it oddly freeing. With Jada, he’d never been like this. No wonder she wanted out. “I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable inside the bank… and outside too. I didn’t mean to.” He took a slow, cleansing breath and exhaled at the same speed. Peering into his dark eyes, Sawyer read the man’s honor, his ability to admit his flaws and desire to correct them. Sawyer believed that if he rejected the apology, this man would walk away and he’d never see or hear from him again. And yet, he gambled, hoping for the best. The earnest plea touched Sawyer more than he wanted to admit. It stole the volume out of his voice leaving it barely at a whisper. “I believe you.” The biker’s shoulders straightened, making him appear even taller than normal. His expression barely changed, but Sawyer swore he glowed from the acceptance, beaming from within. Knowing he’d made it happen, helped quiet the nagging anxieties. His attraction wouldn’t signal the end of days. For a moment, all was near perfect and right, then the huge man stiffened. His tan skin began to pale. His weight barely shifted between his feet, and his mouth trembled, opening and closing a hair’s width. Most people wouldn’t have noticed, but Sawyer had fixated on him from the moment he’d appeared and any change in his otherwise stoic demeanor stood out like neon. “Let’s get something to eat,” the biker barked out, blanching further. “Are you sure? You look like you’d like to rewind that last statement.” Clearing his throat, he shook off whatever gave him pause. “No…no, I mean it. Let’s go.” “What, now?” It was a decent question. Sawyer needed to get his car back. He’d been debating about going to the gym, and he was in the middle of latest novel. There were a list of chores he’d neglected this week. “It’s dinner time. You have something better to do?” “No, not really.” “Then let’s eat. I could go for a beer and a steak.” Sawyer hedged. Here they were, sooner than he’d wanted. He took in a shaky breath and took the leap. “I don’t drink. Too much fun.” Understanding warmed the biker’s eyes and he responded without losing a beat. “Then we skip the beer.” “It’s always been bad luck for me to eat with strangers.” Or do anything with strangers… Inside, Sawyer kicked himself, over and over. Why was he trying to come up with new ways to sabotage this? Shut up already, you idiot! “Says who? Besides, I’m not a stranger.” Sawyer cocked his head to the side. “I don’t even know your name.” The biker froze, and his jaw dropped. His eyes lost focus as the reality dawned on him. “Oh, yeah. Jimmy. Jimmy Coutreau.” “I’m Sawyer. Sawyer Thomas. Don’t tell me if you already knew that.” Jimmy reached out a hand to shake, and wisely didn’t admit one way or the other. “It’s nice to meet you properly, Sawyer. Without me making a fool of myself. So… you’re coming with me?” Sawyer gripped his hand, marveling at the warmth and how it threatened to swallow his own. He wasn’t short, but everything about Jimmy’s size and aura threatened to dominate everyone around him. He exuded power, but hadn’t abused his influence. He hadn’t pushed, which Sawyer was grateful for, because he’d have likely caved. So much time wasted—years—worrying over walking down the wrong path and ruin his progress. He’d been sober for so long. To stay that way, he’d taken the safest life route, which turned out to be the wrong one. At some point, he’d have to move forward, hoping it led in the right direction. To get on that road, he needed to take the first step, even if it was a small one. “Okay. I could eat.” The smile across Jimmy’s face could have lit up the city. Energy flooded every inch of the man’s body, and Sawyer braced for him to start cheering. For some reason he couldn’t explain, he wanted to see it. He wanted to see Jimmy lose control and go crazy, be the beast he saw inside. It was there, just under the surface, dancing like an excitable puppy. Instead, Jimmy’s phone ringing interrupted. He dug his phone out of his pocket and grimaced at the screen. Did he just growl? “Sorry. I have to take this.” Sawyer simply nodded as Jimmy stepped away for a bit of privacy, glancing back at him repeatedly. The conversation was too low to hear, but a hint of reactions ranging from shock to frustration to outright anger flickered over Jimmy’s otherwise calm face. Sooner than expected, Jimmy stabbed the phone with his thumb, ending the call. Disappointment flooded his frame with angry twitches as he walked back to Sawyer. “Dammit. I’m sorry. I have to go.” “Work related?” Sawyer asked, praying he was right and there wasn’t an angry significant other on that call. “Yeah. It’s an emergency.” Hard lines furrowed Jimmy’s brow as he ground his teeth. “Sawyer, I’m really sorry.” For being fairly stoic, Jimmy was now doing a garbage job of hiding his unhappiness. Strangely enough, Sawyer liked the idea of Jimmy being upset over cancelling. He wasn’t thrilled himself—not in the least—but he wasn’t cruel enough to add salt to the wound. “I understand.” “Sawyer…” “No, I get it. Some things you can’t walk away from.” Sawyer reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a business card. He wasted no time shoving it into Jimmy’s hand. If there would be a second chance for both of them, he wouldn’t rely on Jimmy alone to make it happen. “If you’re serious about next time, call me. Stop hanging out in the parking lot. It’s weird.” Jimmy stared at the card bearing Sawyer’s name and phone number as if it was a priceless heirloom. “I will. Yes. I’ll call soon. I promise.” Spinning on his heel, Jimmy rushed off, far more agile than a man his size should be. Sawyer watched the way he moved in those jeans until he rounded the corner and out of sight. Only then, did Sawyer allow himself to breathe. “Let’s hope so.”
  2. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 11

    I try really hard to make a story engaging even when the genre can seem a little played out. Hopefully I can keep your interest piqued. We have a ways to go.
  3. Making Jambalaya tonight from a recipe on Youtube by Chef Issac Toups. 

    He said to be careful while stirring the roux because it's like cooking napalm and will burn the hell out of you. The blisters on my thumb are showing me he wasn't lying. Yowzers.

    But it's in the oven now and looking pretty awesome.

    1. Renee Stevens
    2. Mann Ramblings

      Mann Ramblings

      the finished product was amazing. It was worth it.

  4. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 11

    too late, bitch...
  5. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 11

    Jimmy's past is full of complications and consequences. He needs to be sure he's doing the right thing for the right reason.
  6. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 11

    I'm looking forward to answering more questions about Jimmy's past. Hopefully sooner, rather than later.
  7. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 11

    Jimmy is so worried about making a mistake, he's behaving in ways even he isn't happy with.
  8. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 11

    Jimmy is riding a fine line for sure.
  9. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 11

    Thank you so much! I struggled with how to write this chapter, because a series of scenes with Jimmy stalking Sawyer without context would certainly push him into the creep category. I had the idea of using this as an opportunity to add to his backstory, and I'm pretty pleased with it.
  10. Tonight would be the new moon and Jimmy should have been at his most calm, but the sight of the young banker perked up his wolf. He didn’t like the way the trees had been chopped out to make room for the house on this land. It had been stripped back far enough, he couldn’t sneak in close even with the lack of moonlight. A wolf his size needed more than darkness to hide. Instead, he had to settle for a distant view through the window, while the underbrush dug into his underbelly. Shifting was risky territory these days after the last time his wolf almost didn’t give him back. If he hadn’t felt pressed to follow the source of that glorious scent, he might not have tried. Far more of Jimmy was present as a wolf than usual, almost as if tracking the source of the smell weighed equally on them both. Where he began and the wolf ended lacked distinction. His thoughts were more primal, but his consciousness hadn’t been buried by the animal. It might have been the only thing keeping him from smashing his wet nose against the glass to get another whiff of the man. He was still tempted. “What if my mate is a man?” Jimmy didn’t know why he asked his maman. He’d only been able to control his shift for a few years. Mates were something for older people, like teenagers. She stared at him in that all-knowing way, as if nothing could surprise her. “Then you accept the moon’s blessing with grace.” Not exactly the answer he expected, but he couldn’t hold her gaze and stared at the wall. The striped wallpaper had silver stars embedded in fields of blue and grey. “But then I wouldn’t have pups.” “Perhaps not. Our clan may be small, but it’s strong and we live very long lives. There are more ways than one to be happy.” Jimmy leaned into his maman as she rubbed a variety of spices into a batch of chicken intended for dinner. The kitchen was her home, the center of her pride after her pack. Everything she did within its walls inspired a certain reverence. And happiness. Pure, unadulterated happiness. How he missed those days. “If I find my mate, will I have a choice?” She stopped in the middle of the chicken’s underside to peer down at him. He was so small back then and it made her seem ten feet tall. Now, only memories of her kept their scale. “Of course, child. The moon may show us a path, but we have every right to walk our own. The choice is yours. The scent may urge you to choose, but you can say no. If your mate is unsuitable, you have time to wait for another. She only shows you one at any given time, but no one is cursed to the possibility of only one choice in life. “So if you find a mate, you must learn about them. Make sure they are the one for you. Because once you bite and make the bond, it will be for as long as you live. The choice may be yours, but you can still make a mistake.” Jimmy understood mistakes all too well. He’d lived with the consequences for a long time. The banker sat in a living room armchair turning pages in the book he was reading, until he restlessly closed it and set it aside. He fidgeted, his whole body vibrating with distraction. The disquiet disturbed Jimmy. From what he’d seen, the banker was kind, honestly attempting to help others that day at the bank. Even fogged through the arousing scent, Jimmy heard the sincerity. His instinct to protect was already rising and he didn’t remember his name—wait! The name tag. Sawyer. Sawyer… Thomas. Yes! He was named Sawyer Thomas. Sharing thoughts with the wolf muddied his memories. Normally, he recalled those types of details with sharp clarity. Knowing his name, the wolf wanted to dance, but opted to maintain its stealthy observation. A woman walked into the room and Jimmy’s hackles rose. He hadn’t given thought to the possibility of a previous claim. His breathing quickened and growl rolled out from deep in his chest. Now he had to get another smell to see if she was part of him. He needed to know if he should walk away. The wolf whined at the thought, and Jimmy couldn’t blame him. The idea troubled him as well. Sixty years to find a possible mate was a long time. To reject him, or be rejected… he wasn’t ready to make that choice. Not yet. The woman left and Sawyer stood and went into another room. The light sparked on, bright and visible in the night. A bedroom perhaps. Jimmy edged between a few trees for a better angle, and froze when Sawyer took off his shirt. It didn’t last long as he threw on a t-shirt, but the glimpse he got was firm and well-formed. His mate was fit. Wait… he’s not the mate. Not yet. The wolf whined. Maman slammed the oven door shut, rattling the pots resting on top. She hadn’t started cooking yet. The fields of blue and grey on the wall seemed faded and the stars lacked luster. “Stay away from that boy, Jimmy.” “What’s wrong with Mitchell?” He was twenty-two now. Old enough to decide for himself. “He’s human.” “That doesn’t make him a bad person.” Now taller than his maman, Jimmy deliberately stood over her as he made his point, but his size didn’t matter to her. It never did. “Good or bad, child, it doesn’t matter. Their kind outnumber us and can’t be trusted. They fear what they don’t understand, and what they fear, they burn and then they salt the earth for good measure.” “How do you know?” Sadness weathered her lovely face in an instant. “Years and years of horrible experience.” “You said I always had a choice.” Maman paused. She may not have liked her words thrown in her face, but she wasn’t a hypocrite. Sharing the teachings of their kind were promises that were not meant to be broken, and she never went back on her word. Integrity suffused her every second of every day, even if she didn’t agree. She reached up and cupped Jimmy’s face, her voice quiet with cautious wisdom. “Yes. Yes you do. Just make sure it’s one you can afford to live with.” His maman’s warning would follow him to the grave, haunting him for years and years. Guilt was a nagging companion who never understood when it had overstayed its welcome. Knives forges in betrayal continued to bled his heart while staying anchored through his spine. A minute or two passed and the bedroom light went off. Panting in disappointment at losing sight of him, Jimmy expected to have to turn back. It was late enough Sawyer may have gone to sleep. Hopefully alone. Without the woman. The wolf growled, debating the best places the mark the property. Jimmy’s ears rose as the sound of the door opening. Sawyer stepped out, wearing the same shirt, plus shorts and athletic shoes. He shook out his limbs and bounced, readying himself for action. One final shake and he took off running. Chase! No. Only follow. Don’t scare him. Jimmy wove silently through the trees, keeping Sawyer in view. He jogged in easy strides, barely making a sound. Fluid movements propelled him down the road at a natural pace, and his clothing while functional, deliberately showcased a body accustomed to physical activity. It wasn’t long before Sawyer veered off onto a nearby trail and into the woods. He ran as one familiar with the outdoors in his territory, dodging trees and foliage in the dark. It showed an affinity for his surroundings in sharp contrast to his otherwise rigid appearance with his stuffy, banking clothes and tight hairstyle. He shed his human side and ran like a wolf. Following close enough without being noticed, Jimmy caught that impossible scent again. He focused on its elements parsing what made it unique, and all too happy no other human’s scent lingered or was twined with it. Just him, not her. All him. Musk, and woods, and heavy breathing. It fired his senses and made Jimmy think of biting, blood, and rutting in the night, but he squashed the impulse under his protective streak. Sawyer may have been one with the night, but he was still human. Fragile. Easily broken. The faintest idea of him being harmed brought images of stealing Sawyer away into a hollowed den and guarding him from the world. Keep him safe. The wolf pushed, but Jimmy resisted. There was always the possibility that he was wrong, that Sawyer wasn’t the one. He’d made poor choices in the past. Before he made another, he needed to know more. Revealing secrets had consequences. Could Sawyer be trusted? He had to be able to afford the answer. A hot summer breeze wafted through his truck’s open window. He ignored the wayward strands of hair blowing in his face as long as he had an unobstructed view of the bank’s front door. His wolf was being unusually patient and dormant. An hour had passed parked with the engine off, fairly certain he’d sorted part of the routine. In between searching for more clues about the rogue wolf while he was at work, he’d come back every day for four days, hoping to piece together a portrait of Sawyer Thomas. Hunting came second nature to him, and staking out a target always began with information gathering. One had to be patient for a quarry to appear. How many times had he lie in wait, rifle in hand to take the shot? Too many years on his own had heightened those skills searching for other packs. Keeping a low profile, he made it his duty to know what everyone around him was up to. Never let anyone get close, because the risk of them knowing his truth was too high. His existence had to be protected, for himself and any other pack, wherever they might be. He owed his kind that much at least. What had he learned about Sawyer? Sawyer’s routine was straightforward. In the mornings, he took a run through the same woods as before, came home and got ready for work. He drove that horrible little four door Escort, getting to work at almost the same time each. Once he got off work, he often grabbed a bite to eat, then headed to the gym. Afterwards, he would drive home to the same house he shared with the woman. She left the house often. His wolf growled. They made a picture perfect couple, but he hadn’t seen him kiss her or scent her on him during his late evening runs in the trails. It was enough to keep him calm. He didn’t do anything else. Few smiles crossed his face and he often couldn’t sit still once he was home. Discontent. Sawyer didn’t hang out with friends, go to the bar, or party. Loneliness? Isolation? The solitude spoke to Jimmy. It made him realize how much he needed contact, interaction. Yes, he was working to join Fergus’s pack, but it was more a matter of preserving his sanity than something he looked forward to. There were downsides The late night runs had become the highlight of Jimmy’s evening. Watching Sawyer run in those clinging shorts, heart beating loud enough for his wolf to follow, perspiration drawing an arrow to his powerful body. For a human. It was the closest he’d had to run with wolves in oh so long. He’d almost forgotten how important being part of a pack was to a wolf’s soul. How working as one towards a goal, soothed the rough edges and brought peace and harmony. Happiness. All the things he’s lost in Louisiana. He’d been a stray for far too many years. Decades. “How did you meet Papa?” Maman tucked Jimmy in because sleep nipped at his heels and it was getting late. A gracious smile curled her lips as she focused on days long past. “A long time ago, while we ran under the moon, we heard his howl. Far off in the distance. Pleading for help. So we answered, howling into the wind as we ran to him.” “Where was this?” “Someplace in Montana. There were many more of us back then. Many more packs. It was so long ago I barely remember.” “But you remember him.” Stroking his cheek, Maman smiled in the fond way she reserved for her husband. “Oh yes. Papa I’d never forget.” Then the smile flattened. “We found him running. Wounded. I could smell the gunpowder and blood in his fur. Hunters had killed his pack and he was all alone. It made me furious.” Jimmy yawned. He was exhausted, but refused to sleep until he heard it all. “What did you do?” “We avenged his family. Performed justice on the humans still following him, and made him one of our own.” “Did you know he was your mate?” She reached over and turned off the bedside lamp to hide her face. Talk of this time always conflicted her, over what she’d been forced to do, the pain they lived despite the good they’d achieved. “I did. From the moment I caught his scent. But Papa’s heart was broken, he’d lost so much, and mating him wasn’t the way to mend it. So we kept him close while he grieved, and eventually he found his way to me while we made the trek to Louisiana. It wasn’t easy, but we chose to be together. The mate scent may tell you who may be right for you, but there’s no such thing as instant love, child. Attraction, yes, but not love. Remember that.” “I will, maman.” “Good, child. Now go to sleep.” Crushing his eyes shut tight, Jimmy tipped his head back so he faced the truck cab’s ceiling. “I haven’t forgotten, maman. I swear.” Somedays asking for her forgiveness was harder than others. He hadn’t exactly been celibate waiting to find a mate, although in all honesty, he’d given up waiting. There were other more pressing matters. In his travels to find more packs, warm bodies weren’t hard to find, and sinking into pleasure allowed him to ignore the weight he carried daily. Women had shared his bed, none for long, because he didn’t believe he’d earned the privilege of knowing men. Not after Mitchell. And now here he was chasing this total stranger, trying to see if the moon had indeed granted him a reprieve or if it was all some kind of torturous joke. Sawyer’s scent still burned his nostrils, pushing him like an addict for another fix. More penance for his sins. Absolution exacted a heavy price. He missed his family so much. The bank door opened and the air stilled. His wolf woke. Sawyer stepped onto the sidewalk dressed in a stuffy suit, the navy fabric hugging his thighs and accenting his physique. Too many layers of clothing for this time of year. Jimmy swallowed, his mouth uncommonly wet as he imagined getting a better view of Sawyer out of his clothes. Peeling him out of the jacket. Using that silk tie to lash his wrists to the… Stop. Personal appetites aside, that wasn’t why he was here. Sawyer turned, his carefully styled hair balancing his handsome face, and he looked right at Jimmy. No anger crossed Sawyer’s expression, only a visible fight between a half-smile and concerned confusion, as if he didn’t know what to make of Jimmy either. Was he breathing hard? Jimmy lost track of how long they both stared each other down, clearly uncomfortable but unwilling to blink and end their suffering. With a jerky move, Sawyer broke eye contact and headed for his gray four-door sedan. His wolf whined, demanding Jimmy leap out of his truck and give chase, yet he ignored the inner voice and did nothing. Because he couldn’t trust himself over what might come next. Sawyer continued to glance back over his shoulder as he got in his little car and started the engine. Only when he drove away did Jimmy exhale. The memory of Sawyer’s scent tickled his thoughts and nostrils and he found himself grinding his palm against the hardening length—the rifle—in his jeans. Fuck. Growling in frustration, he dropped his forehead to the steering wheel. This couldn’t be happening. Jimmy knew he wasn’t hunting anymore. He never had been. He was stalking the man like some deranged pervert from the day they met. Only two sentences between them and he couldn’t believe the things that came out of his mouth. He acted like he expected the guy to hit his knees in the middle of the crowded bank. And until his head had cleared, Jimmy meant every word. If his maman was alive, she’d slap the hair right off his head and tell him to go talk to the man. Big bad hunter can chase rabid wolves and put them down under the full moon, but couldn’t bring himself to walk up to the pretty man and start a normal conversation to find out if he was a decent human being. Oh shit. He called Sawyer pretty.
  11. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 10

    ooOOOOoooo.... minotaurs...
  12. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 10

    Yay! More theories! **adds to growing list**
  13. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 10

    Good! This chapter was supposed to reveal this in a greater capacity.
  14. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 10

    Sometimes it's difficult, but posting and feedback is a big part of why I share on GA. It's good to see how readers respond. It helps gauge the writing and the plot. And about does reader feedback and comments affect the story? Ask @Carlos Hazday LOL On occasion, I have changed plot points because readers figured things out I wanted to keep quiet. I don't always do it, but if secrets are obvious when you're trying to hide them, then I haven't done it right.
  15. Mann Ramblings

    Chapter 10

    to say the least... For Fergus's betas, it keeps them at the top of the pecking order, so they might be more willing to go along with it all if they weren't already inclined.
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